For the last three seasons, Christian Sunseri and the Lackawanna Trail boys basketball team have been rebuilding. One might say most of Sunseri’s five years at Trail have been rebuilding.
But this year, the head coach feels, the Lions are ready to roar.
Before Sunseri took the reins of the team he was a shooting guard for, the Lions had seen three coaches in four years.
“That really hurt the program. We needed to work on loving the game again. In the past three seasons, we have won 12 games. That’s 12 total. When I took over in 2014, we went 10-13 with five seniors. I was lucky they loved basketball. We started to rebuild the program-summer leagues, team camps, lifting sessions, working all year- those are the things that we put in,” said Sunseri.
He continued, “This year, though, if I had to put a number on it, I think we are looking at 10 wins. That’s realistic. We have set internal goals to improve on our four wins last year. I can see an improvement from all our hard work, the kids are committed. Even our football players, who have a grueling summer schedule, made it a point to get to our summer workouts. This team-since they were freshmen-have all cared about the program, and cared about the game.”
Coach Sunseri, who is assisted by his father Michael, has always had his sights set on coaching. When he graduated from Trail in 2008, he headed to Drexel University as a guard. “There were a lot of good guards,” he reflected. “But I knew I wanted to continue to play, and learn from some of the best coaches. I went to the women’s practice squad, knowing that when I coached, I could take those lessons with me.”
Trail lost four seniors last year, and only rosters two seniors this season. Sunseri feels that sophomore JP Gilroy, and juniors Miguel Ella and Luke Walker will add depth to his lineup.
The team is working on improving its defensive strategies, as well as pressuring the ball to speed up other teams. Sunseri believes that defense will travel with the players- offering consistency night in and night out.
He added, “Offense, well, the ball doesn’t always go in. But if you can play a good defensive game, then the team always has a chance to win a game.”
Scoring consistently has been a downfall for the Lions, but Sunseri is banking on the team’s height- three players 6’-3” or taller and two 6’-2” guards, along with a solid Zach Cost who measures at 6’-1”- to carry them through the rough spots.
Cost is one of seven football players that are rostered for basketball this winter, but have yet to attend a practice. Sunseri and football coach Steve Jervis work together in the offseason to make sure both teams benefit.
“The boys on the football team are focused on football, and that is the way it should be. We work with Coach Jervis in the summer to get out team camp in before August when they start. The boys put in their work with me over the summer, and we all work together. They are active, and I am not worried at all about their ability to switch over to another sport. We all want Trail football to go as far as possible,” he clarified.
Sunseri said, “Both of our seniors, the two Zachs (Cost and Stec), are on the football team, but are such great leaders that the team and coaching staff selected them as captains. They took the leadership role and ran with it. It was a process that started as soon as last year was over, and they have been in front of communicating to the team about what needs to be done. They are also big on accountability.”
The Lions have also rebuilt their schedule. The exhibition schedule that Trail was used to running held large powerhouse teams such as Valley View, Wallenpaupack, and Wyoming Seminary. Valley View went to the second round of states last season.
Sunseri felt that his job as a coach was to match the exhibition games to where the team could be more competitive. This season, the Lions will see the likes of Towanda, Wyoming Area, Riverside, and Old Forge instead.
“One thing we like to say is that hard work beats talent- everyone knows that quote. But we take the second part out. Hard work beats talent. Period. The seniors that have been here since their freshmen year have had their struggles. But now it is paying off, we don’t have to be the best or the most skilled, but just work hard and do things the right way. After that, they can do whatever they want after they move on from Lackawanna Trail,” Sunseri reflected.
The boys practice in the high school gym from 6-8 p.m., barring a girl’s team home game.
Roster: Seniors Zac Cost and Zach Stec. Juniors Nico Berrios, Richard Helbing, Miguel Ella, Luke Walker, and Josh Rzucidlo. Sophomores JP Gilroy, JJ Sharpe, Jacob Whiteduck, Johann Ella, Ty Vokes, Will Filan, and Bill Edwards. Freshmen Corey Burns, Brycen Decker, Owen Lisk, Sun Kwan Lee, and Keith Dixon.
Schedule: Dec. 7 vs. Tunkhannock, 6 p.m.; Dec. 10 vs. Towanda, 6 p.m.; Dec. 12 at Wyoming Area, 6 p.m.; Dec. 14-15 hosting Cal King Tournament; Dec. 19 at Old Forge, 6 p.m.; Dec. 27-29 Taylor Lions Tournament; Jan. 2 vs. Elk Lake, 6 p.m.; Jan. 4 at Mountain View, 6 p.m.; Jan. 8 vs. Forest City, 6 p.m.; Jan. 11 at Montrose, 6 p.m.; Jan. 15 vs. Blue Ridge, 6 p.m.; Jan. 18 vs. Susquehanna, 6 p.m.; Jan. 22 at Mid Valley, 6 p.m.; Jan. 25 at Elk Lake, 6 p.m.; Jan. 29 vs. Mountain View; Feb. 1 at Forest City, 6 p.m.; Feb. 5 vs. Montrose, 6 p.m.; Feb. 8 at Blue Ridge, 5:30 p.m.; Feb. 12 at Susquehanna, 6 p.m.; Feb. 14 vs.
Mid Valley, 6 p.m.